As is tradition in February half-term, HSX head up to the Cairngorms, for a week of winter mountaineering! Having left Hampshire on Friday night, most of the group arrived at 7am Saturday morning after an epic drive up from the South Coast.
Arriving at a more sensible 2am Chris, Dobbie and Joe got out onto the hill to assess the conditions on the nearby Corries, and got to the top of Cairn Gorm, enjoying the pea-soup conditions, micro-navigating back down via 1141m.
The main group got up at around 12 and went for a small walk to Ryvoan bothy which offered some good views, before heading into Aviemore, to enjoy a Hot Chocolate at the recently renamed Café Mambo!
Sunday we all got out together and battled through 60mph gusts into Corie Cas. Once we arrived at our destination we practised basic winter mountaineering skills, including cutting bucket seats, self-arrest, walking technique, step cutting and testing the snow stability, by digging an avalanche pit. Unfortunately we were not able to use crampons today due to the soft snow and wind strength.
We practised all this with a journalist and photographer joining in with everything; this was an interesting experience for all of us, with Ollie deciding he should be followed by the Paparazzi everywhere (he’s such a diva!).
Arriving back at the Car Park we found out that the mountain road was closed (due to storm force winds!), so Russ couldn’t meet us for our pick, but luckily we had one van at the Car Park, so we were able to ferry the group down (much to the jealousy of the other walkers making the long decent to the bottom of the mountain).
For the rest of the week we’re planning on putting these skills into practice along with learning more advanced skills and also planning an overnight in snow holes/bothys.